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Cho Oyu 2000

Cho Oyu

(8201m) 6 members summit the sixth highest peak in the world.

Cho Oyu, seen from 5250 metres (photo taken on the trail down to Chinese base). The route follows through the obvious right hand face, and the true summit is on the left center of the photo, across the summit plateau. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

The drive into Nepal: On September 6, our Cho Oyu expedition team prepared their equipment and supplies in Kathmandu. On September 7th, we crossed the Nepal/Tibet border by bus, and truck, and we made our way to the town of Nyalam, on the same day. During our road trip, because the Friendship Highway was badly damaged due to unusually heavy floods, we were forced to change vehicles 4 times, and run through a boulder-shooting rock slide in the middle of the night. Gratefully, we rested in Nyalam the following day. The team headed to the village of Tingri and basecamp, while Dan Mazur, representing Bristol, England, and Montana, USA, stayed behind for a few days, to recover from the flu.

Our main basecamp, on the Gyabrag moraine at 5650 metres. Our solar powered communications tent in basecamp. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Arrival in basecamp: On September 11th, the team arrived in Chinese basecamp, located at. 4800 metres, on the Gyabrag River. On September 12th, Walter Keller, representing Pittsburgh, had located an adequate place for basecamp, at 5650 metres, on the Gyabrag Moraine.

Jobo Rabzang, a 6666 metre peak that we watched daily from basecamp. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

This spot was quiet, peaceful and secluded, affording views of several stunning peaks, including a challenging-looking 6666 metre peak, by the name of Jobo Robzang . Our three Tibetan cooks, two Chinese climbers, two Nepalese climbers, and the rest of our team, representing 8 nations, established a comfortable basecamp.

Walter walking through the Gyabrag Moraine to the cache and camp 1. Rod Richardson, packing up in camp 1. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Establishing camp 1: On September 16th, Walter Keller, Jon Otto, representing Chengdu, China, and Bellingham, Washington, Phil Crampton from New York City, Yang Li Qun and Chen, from China, as well as Jangbu Ang Shera Sherpa and Durge Tamang, from Nepal, established Camp 1 where the scree slope met the Balung Glacier on the north west ridge of Cho Oyu at 6400 metres. Along the way, they made an equipment cache at 6000 metres, at the base of the horrible scree slope which leads to camp 1. For the next several days, the team worked to establish a fixed line through an ice cliff at 6800 metres, and were thwarted just shy of camp 2 when Yang succumbed to snowblindness.

Yang recovering from snow blindness, tea bags on his eyes. Durge, posing next to the tent we erected in camp 2. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Establishing camp 2: On September 22nd, Dan Mazur and Durge Tamang established camp 2 at 7100 metres on a plateau above a headwall on the northwest ridge.

On September 24th, Dan Mazur and Jangbu walked to camp 3 at 7500 metres, perched on a rock ledge under the great northwest face. They cached two tents and one stove there.

On October 30th, upon returning to camp 2, we discovered one of our single-wall goretex tents had been removed from its tent platform. The tent had been securely staked down with many guy-lines and bamboo wands, and had disappeared from a group of tents, where others, less well attached to the earth, had not been touched. We presumed it to be stolen.

On October 31st, Rod Richardson, representing Nevada, USA, departed basecamp with a stubborn case of pulmonary edema, which refused to respond to treatment.

Tim, Phil and John Arnold, climbing the lines we fixed in the icefall. Our camp 3, with views into the Gyachung Kang region. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Establishing camp 3: On October 1st, Durge Tamang set up one tent in camp 3, and spent the night there. He reported the other tent had been stolen from the cache. On October 2nd, Dan Mazur, Ian Hatchett, representing Sidney, Australia, and Crested Butte, Colorado, Timothy Boelter, representing Minnesota, and John Arnold from Alberta, Canada, moved into camp 3, where they erected two more tents.

Dan on the summit, Mt. Everest behind. Photographer Tim Boelter. Copyright: www.mountainzone.com Durge and Tim on the summit. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Climbing to the summit: On October 3rd, Dan, Tim, and Durge climbed to the true summit of Cho Oyu via the northwest face in cold, windy, and sunny weather, reaching the real top at exactly noon.. Ian and John turned around at the rock band just above camp 3 in the still-dark early morning in extremely cold conditions, Ian with frozen hands, and John with a detached crampon and no headlamp.

John Arnold and Ian Hatchett, enroute to camp 3 The black speck at the edge of the distant plateau, between the two climbers, is camp 2. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Apparently, they had stood beneath the rock band, and tried to re-attach John's crampon, but had become discouraged as the climbers above, including Tim Boelter, kicked down a quantity of ice, rock, and snow upon their heads. John tried again that day, at 8:30 in the morning, joining a group of Spanish and French people he had found encamped in our tents in camp 3, some smoking cigarettes at 7500 metres! Later the same day, the mixed group turned around at 4:30 pm, still well below the summit plateau, sure that they would not succeed and wishing to avoid the darkness.

Franck Pitula and David LePagne, waiting for good weather in camp 2. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Franck Pitula summits: On October 6th, Franck Pitula, representing Paris, France, and David Le Pagne, representing France and Lulle, Sweden, set off from camp 3 for the summit, and while David turned back, feeling ill, Franck continued on, reaching the summit at 4:15 pm.

Obrien brothers summit: On the morning of October 7th, Jon Otto, Phil Crampton, Chris Obrien, representing Philadelphia, USA, and Mike Obrien, representing Chicago, USA, were in camp 3, intending to summit. Phil decided to stay put, feeling symptoms of the flu. Jon and Mike and Chris stepped out into the cold breeze and pre-dawn light at 5:00 am. Jon turned around at the rock band above camp 3, he was feeling ill, and his feet were cold. Mike and Chris continued on and reached the summit around 4:00 pm. On descent, just above camp 3, they faced a dramatic moment when Chris' crampon detached from his foot, and his brother Mike caught it in mid-air while rappelling through the rock band.

Attempted rescue of a Serbian climber: On October 10th, our team tried to help an exhausted Serbian climber who was suffering from pulmonary edema, who we found in camp 1 in deep trouble. His team mates seemed somewhat unable to help him. David LePagne marched him down the hated scree-slope from camp 1. Dan Mazur convinced him not to stay at the cache camp, and encouraged the Obrien brothers, themselves exhausted from summitting, to escort him back to base. The Serbian gentleman was, by this time, nearly crawling on his hands and knees, and saying things like: "Please take me back to city." Dr. Roblee Allen representing Sacramento USA, David Roberts representing Cornwall, England, Jon Otto, Phil Crampton, and others assisted mightily in the rescue.

Carrying the victim on a home made stretcher. Mike, Chris, Doctor Rob, and Phil (standing up and puming the PAC bag). The victim is inside the PAC bag. Doctor Rob, shattered, on the morning the injured climber died. The grave marker. Photographer and Copyright: Jack Jakobczyk.

They eventually had to carry him on a makeshift stretcher made from bamboo poles and tarpaulins. Reaching basecamp at 3:00 am, on the 11th of October, the rescue team put the man into a portable altitude chamber-bag (PAC bag), with oxygen. He seemed to recover by 6:30 in the morning, and when our team unzipped the PAC bag, he was even able to sit up and give the "thumbs-up" sign. However, by 7:38 am, he was dead. Doctor Roblee Allen said that the victim's PH balance was so out of the normal range, due to a prolonged bout with pulmonary edema, that his heart went into fibrillation, and we were not able to resuscitate him. After working so hard to help this fellow-mountaineer, we were all extremely grief-stricken by his death. A respectful funeral service was conducted that afternoon by his team-mates, and we attended as well, and help bury him in the rocks of the moraine, and erect a memorial marker.

John Arnold, standing next to a tent which had the fly-sheet stripped from it in the storm. Photo and Copyright: D.L. Mazur. A view of Cho Oyu during the gale that wrecked our camps. Durge packs up the remains of a destroyed tent. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Wind storm destroys tents: We had predetermined that October 12th would be our last chance to reach the summit, and Yang and Ian waited in camp 3 for their chance. At 3:00 in the morning on a moonlit eve, a stronger-than-usual wind storm blew in, and our tents in camp 1, 2, and 3 were blown away or destroyed. Out of 11 tents placed in our high-altitude camps, only 1 had survived unscathed.

Ian, frozen in a desperate descent from camp 3. Yang making the final abseil-rappel, through the ice fall. Does anyone know where our tents are? The arrows show location of camps 2 and 3, and the summit is actually on the left center of the photo. Photographer: D.L. Mazur, Copyright: www.mountainzone.com

Yang: a false alert: Ian Hatchett descended from camp 3 at 9:30 am, but Yang refused to join him, saying he wanted to sleep. Dan, Durge, and Jangbu, climbed from Camp 1 up the mountain to try and locate Yang, and see what was left of the camps. Luckily, we found Yang at 4:00 pm that afternoon, and escorted him down the mountain, with the help of John Arnold, Jon Otto, and Ian Hatchett. On October 13th, the team finished the job of clearing away the rubbish, broken tents, and the remainder of equipment from the camps.

Return home: On October 14th, as planned, our Yaks and their drivers arrived late in the day, and on the morning of the 15th we walked down to the Chinese basecamp at 4800 metres, where we loaded our things into trucks and departed. With several roadblocks and customs problems, it was an eventful exit from Tibet, but we were able to keep to our schedule and return to Kathmandu, Nepal on the evening of October 17th.

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